Welcome to the Tough Cookies series where we interview and celebrate the strong and determined individuals who are making waves in the tech industry.
This week we checked in with Helen from Xavier Analytics.
An inspiration for women and girls in STEM, Helen speaks to us about working in Fintech, the difficulties of starting a company, her pet Griffen (the photo made us melt) and great networking opportunities in Bristol! Read on…
Tell us a bit about Xavier Analytics and the problem you are trying to solve?
These days, financial data is complex and usually aggregated from a wide range of sources like bank feeds, OCR tech using scans and photos (e.g. Receipt Bank), and manual data entry. This is a huge problem for managing data quality; usually, you only realise there’s a problem when the numbers don’t add up right at the very end of the process. Unfortunately for a small business, data errors and inconsistencies can lead to time-consuming or costly mistakes in tax and cashflow forecasting.
Xavier is a Xero-connected web app created for accountants to automate a wide range of checks on data quality, tax compliance and transaction history, to fix any data errors before they become a problem. We also provide a health score for each client; accountancies can use this to manage their clients and prioritise their attention for small businesses that might be struggling with their bookkeeping or performance. This means small businesses can get the help they need at the right time.
It’s been developed as a partnership with FD Works, a Bristol accountancy – it’s been great to have that accounting expertise from the beginning!
I know that I have found it hard being a female in tech… How have you found being a female in fintech?
I have had to take some long frustrated walks! The impostor syndrome is very real, too. I definitely feel a responsibility to lift other women up in the industry, when it gets uncomfortable it’s good to remember that even just being visible is paving the way for diversity in tech, and the more we can do, the better. While women are definitely still a minority in Fintech, there are some really inspirational role models; for example, Starling Bank CEO & Founder, Anne Boden.
There are also some amazing networks out there for support in Bristol. With the network I have now, most of us are so positive about diversity that I have a lot of hope for the industry in the future!
You’ll never stop learning!
What’s the piece of advice you would give to younger people looking to get into the tech industry?
It’s a really exciting time to get into tech, so first of all, do it! There are a lot of different roles in tech too, enough to suit anybody, you don’t have to be a hardcore coder if it doesn’t suit you.
Second, don’t worry if you don’t know everything, just be prepared to learn. These days tech moves so fast and different things go in and out of fashion really quickly. It can seem like you’re behind when everyone is talking about all the latest frameworks, but really all you need to get going are the basics and the willingness to pick up the rest as you go along, you’ll never stop learning!
What has been your hardest moment founding Xavier Analytics and how did you overcome this?
In a startup, it’s a constant challenge! The sacrifices to personal time are the hardest because you start to wonder why you’re even doing it, and that makes pushing your comfort zone in everything else a lot harder. It starts slowly, but there’s a thin line between ‘labour of love’ and ‘burnout’.
Part of fixing this has been trying to take a step back every now and again. I try not to take things too personally when there’s a bug or user churn, it’s just what a startup is. It’s more motivating to look at the bigger picture, where we’ve come from to where we are now is amazing and we should be proud – onwards and upwards!
What’s the best thing you have in your office at the moment (This could be a plant, toy, poster…) and picture please!
I work from home most of the time, so the best thing in my office is definitely my huge fluffy cat, Griffin! He’s usually snoozing on the chair behind me with all 4 paws in the air, and makes a great ‘rubber duck’ when things get frustrating.
Are there any networking events we should be looking at?
For women in tech, I have attended a lot of Free Three Friday meetups by Women’s Tech Hub at Desklodge. The folks there are great for contacts and support, plus biscuits and a good laugh. Bristol Girl Geek Dinners also do some great events with really cool speakers and venues.
CodeHub Bristol are a great community that hold really chilled hack nights, as well as some study groups. Their Slack is really supportive too. I don’t go to a lot of open networking events (usually depends on who does the good pizza) but I’m always lurking on Slack groups.
Who is inspiring you the most at the moment?
Janelle Shane does some brilliant creative work with AI that I always enjoy catching up on. It’s both funny and a bit more of an insight into how fallible the technology is, which is actually really important to remember when everyone is shoehorning AI everywhere (data quality, folks!). Plus, I think it’s a bit of an inspiration to do what you love, and not take anything too seriously. Her blog is aiweirdness.com, totally worth a read!
What’s your favourite flavoured cookie?
Salted caramel, hands down.